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November in singles: Better late than never

Late of the Pier

I’d forgotten to post November’s singles round-up from The Skinny. Must have been the post-traumatic stress disorder associated with exposure to Razorshite…

And November’s single of the month goes to… Razorlight. Sorry, wrong envelope. I meant to pick up the one for ‘Most nauseous, mock-sincere rock ballad of the month’. That one goes to them for ‘Wire to Wire’ (*, Out Now), Johnny Borrell’s latest rectum-dwelling soliloquy. Presumably the misspelling of Isle of Man band Loverman‘s debut single, ‘Crucifiction’ (**, 17 Nov), is deliberate. At any rate, they’re trying to be the new Bad Seeds but veer far too close to Jet-style rock-schlock for their aim to be taken seriously. Employing a similar low-wave distortion frequency, The Hold Steady do a much better job of keeping blue-collar rock’n’roll alive. ‘Stay Positive’ (***, Out Now) is a brazen, fists-in-the-air chant-a-long (insert other masculine rock clichés here). A very different proposition, Haunts open ‘London’s Burning’ (**, 17 Nov) with a gothic, kitsch, Hammer Horror intro, then break into a much sunnier indie-pop chorus, which they alternate throughout the song. Interesting? Yes. Enough to sustain a career in the music industry? Perhaps not.

With newcomers like Gavin Gordon, Alex Cornish and Rob St John, the Scottish singer/songwriter scene is blossoming, and now we can add another name: Brendan Campbell. On ‘Burgers and Murders’ (****, Out Now) the Glaswegian Campbell sings evocatively about a summer walk through his native Pollock, in all its dubious glories. In this respect it’s a bit reminiscent of the Paul Weller song ‘Stanley Road’, which brings me neatly onto the Modfather’s latest effort. The double A-side ‘Sea Spray/22 Dreams’ (***, 3 Nov) reveals nothing new from him, but it’s still good enough to warrant his eternal presence on the covers of the nation’s dad-rock magazines.

I have so far managed to live my life in complete indifference to Tracy Chapman. And after a swift spin of ‘Sing For You’ (**, 3 Nov) I’m happy to remain undisturbed in this respect. Can Gabriella Cilmi, the just-turned-17 Aussie songstress, follow Chapman’s path to MOR success? If she keeps churning out Radio 2-ready songs like ‘Sanctuary’ (**, 10 Nov) it’s quite likely. Lykke Li, on the other hand, is the real deal. The Twilight Sad voted her single of the month in their anarchic singles round-up takeover in June, and ‘Little Bit’ (****, Out Now) is another stripped-down gem.

There really isn’t enough electro in this column. So Mr Beasley (not a man but a boy-girl duo) has attempted to right this wrong with ‘Right As Rain’ (***, 10 Nov) which, if there were electro calories, would be twice your recommended daily intake.

The battle for single of the month comes down to two of the most hyped bands to break this year. Friendly Fires have put the funk firmly back into, er, punk-funk, their debut album a pulsating onslaught of slap bass and cowbell. ‘Paris’ (***, 10 Nov), though, is let down by a rare burst of Hallmark schmaltz: “And every night we’ll watch the stars / They’ll be out for us.” In truth there was never any contest. Late of the Pier couldn’t fail to win in this or any month with ‘Bathroom Gurgle’ (*****, Out Now). Let me break down this extraordinary four-minute song: a long intro of Sparks-esque electro; slows, stately stadium rock guitars crash in behind soaring falsetto chorus; double-speed with vocoder backing; stadium rock bit; speeds up again; stadium rock again; falsetto soars off the scale; ends. Bands take note: that’s how you win single of the month.

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June in singles: reviewed by The Twilight Sad

The Twilight Sad admire a copy of Gavin Rossdale's new single
[Images: John Lewis]

Instead of my usual ramblings on the month’s singles for The Skinny magazine, this time we decided to let someone else do the slagging. The Twilight Sad are one of my favourite bands of the past year, and even produced The Skinny’s album of 2007. I met them before their gig at Tigerfest in Dunfermline to play them some CDs. It went well until they started stamping on them…

James Graham – vocals
Andy MacFarlane – guitar
Craig Orzel – bass

THE RASCALS – FREAKBEAT PHANTOM

James: I don’t mind that.
Andy: It just sounds like that other band, the Shadow Puppets.
me: D’you not think he sings like Alex Turner?
Andy: Aye I’ve listened to that Shadow Puppets record and I get confused.
me: Rating out of ten?
James: Six.
Andy: Aye, it’s not bad, it’s not good, it’s just aaaaverage.
[Craig enters]
Andy: Ye missed the first one. A scouse band. Would you be intae that?
Craig: Aye why not?
James: He doesnae need tae hear that one.

6/10

James: Put on Little Man Tate, cause I know that’s gonnae be pish! I heard one song by them and I nearly spewed.

LITTLE MAN TATE – WHAT YOUR BOYFRIEND SAID

Andy: They should just give up man.
me: Rating out of ten?
James: One. Two. One and a half. That was bollocks. I knew that was gonna be bollocks. I could dae this for a living. This is great.

1.5/10

LEVELLERS – BURN AMERICA BURN

Andy: Is What A Beautiful Day getting reissued? That’s a ten!
James: How old are the Levellers? Pretty old.
me: I didn’t know they were still together.
James: Neither did I.
Andy: It sounds like a gypsy version of The Associates. I dunno why they’re still together.
James: Four, at the best. One for the fans!

4/10

GAVIN ROSSDALE – LOVE REMAINS THE SAME

Andy: See if it sounds like Gwen Stefani, it might be awright! Anyone who’s boabin’ her gets five marks straight away!
James: This is gonnae be shite. [sings] Swallowed. This sounds like a drummer’s old band. Pure pop rock. They were amazingly bad. This just sounds like too American, like that band Daughtry. Slash played wi them once, and that’s what this sounds like.
Craig: The start of it sounds like the Velvet Underground.
[play intro again]
Andy: Aye, Heroin.
James: It sounds like Heroin, plus he’s got five bonus points for shagging Gwen Stefani.
Andy: Two points for Heroin and five for Gwen Stefani, so that’s seven.
James: Naw ye cannae give it seven!
Andy: But if ye read the review it’ll be explained!

7/10

JASON MRAZ – I’M YOURS

Andy: What’s he got tae dae wi anything?
me: “San Diego-based troubadour”, apparently.
James: Eek.
Andy: This sounds like Jack Johnson or something.
James: I think a wee minus point might be in order.
Craig: [copying a lyric] I can’t take no fucking more either!
Andy: That’s no even worth talking about!
James: Gie that nothing. They were signed for tax reasons.

0/10

JOAN AS POLICE WOMAN – TO BE LOVED

James: She used tae go out wi Elliot Smith. [It was actually Jeff Buckley – easy mistake to make]
Andy: He’s pure deid but.
James: It’s pretty shite that eh?
Andy: It sounds like that lassie fae High Fidelity. She can get five bonus points for being in Rufus Wainwright’s band, but she can get minus three for sounding like that lassie fae High Fidelity.
me: Equals two.
Andy: Aye but ye’ll need tae explain that.

2/10

LYKKE LI – I’M GOOD, I’M GONE

me: Have you heard of Lykke Li?
James: Aye I like her. I’ve seen her name all over the place. She’s touring wi that band that we played wi, Shout Out Louds.
Andy: Sounds like Feist.
James: Aye she is quite feisty but!
All: Hahaha!
James: I seriously didnae mean it like that!
Andy: I quite like it. I’d say a seven.

7/10

IRON & WINE – LOVESONG OF THE BUZZARD

James: I’ve got this album but I’ve no listened to it yet.
Craig: It sounds like Sex and the City!
Andy: It pure does!
James: I could take or leave it.
Andy: It gets a point off for them being in that cheesy film Garden State.
James: I liked that!
Andy: Was a seven, point off for Garden State.
James: So six.

6/10

HERCULES & LOVE AFFAIR – YOU BELONG

James: It’s meant tae be quite good this.
[CD fails to play]
Andy: Give it a zero. A big fat zero cos it doesnae work!
James: Gie it a ten!
Andy: Nut! Zero.
[CD eventually plays]
James: Orzel you like it already! Orzel likes Italian disco.
Craig: It sounds like Streets of Rage 2. It’s got a dance soundtrack like this.
Andy: Is that Antony [Hegarty] singing?
James: Naw it cannae be. Pitchfork gave it like 9.8 or something.
Andy: Fuck Pitchfork!
Craig: It sounds like a wild night of sex and cocaine and it’s all gone fucking wrong and they’re fucking each other and there’s coke everywhere and they thought, we’ve got tae do a song!
Andy: Give it two.

2/10

DOES IT OFFEND YOU YEAH? – EPIC LAST SONG

me: Will this offend you, yeah?
James: Yeah I’ve heard that and it’s bollocks. Nearly as bad as the new Fratellis one.
Andy: It sounds like it should be on Skins. It sounds a bit like The Dykeenies.
James: They’re no American enough tae be The Dykeenies! Give it two.
Andy: Dae gie it fuckin two, gie it zero!

0/10

PANIC AT THE DISCO – THINGS HAVE CHANGED

James: They did that Nine in the Afternoon song that was in Heroes. I liked Heroes. I didn’t like the song though.
me: I thought they were an emo band but this isn’t emo at all.
James: It seems like they’re trying to go for the Queen vibe.
Craig: Give it 4.4.
James: One point for trying to sound like Queen, but take it off for sounding like The Feeling!
me: So that’s a healthy zero?
Andy: Aye.
James: Andy, none of your ratings have got anything to do wi the tunes but.

0/10

ELBOW – ONE DAY LIKE THIS

Andy: He cannae sing.
James: He’s a really nice guy but.
Andy: Who cares if he’s a nice guy? He cannae sing!
James: Apparently he was one of the top 20 hottest guys in Glamour magazine.
Andy: He’s a scruffy bum! Is there a B-side? We should review that instead.
Craig: A lot of bands just focus on one part. There’s no chords in there. It’s like a vacuum of noise. You can’t identify the chords or bassline or anything.
James: I wanted tae be nice in these reviews.
Andy: Why kid on that you like something when ye clearly don’t? Give that one.

1/10

The results have been collated and there is a tie for single of the month, but given that Gavin Rossdale’s rating consisted entirely of bonus points for, ahem, being Mr Gwen Stefani, and sounding like The Velvet Underground, it seems fair to hand this month’s accolade to the perfectly feisty Lykke Li.

The Twilight Sad resort to violence

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